The mother of a teenage girl who sucker-punched an opposing player in the head during a youth basketball game in Garden Grove – an attack caught on cell phone video that went viral – was charged with a pair of misdemeanors for allegedly encouraging her daughter to carry out the attack, prosecutors said Thursday.
Latira Shonty Hunt, 44, of La Puente, was charged with misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and battery.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's Office, Hunt was in the stands of the Nov. 7 game at the Map Sports Facility in Garden Grove, and after her daughter had an on-court interaction with an opposing player, Hunt allegedly yelled, “You better hit her for that.”
Moments later, the teenage daughter approached the opposing player and slugged her in the head. Alice Ham, the mother of the 15-year-old girl who was struck, told reporters later that her daughter suffered a concussion from the blow.
Hunt faces up to a year in jail if convicted. It was unclear when she would appear in court.
“It is unconscionable that a parent would encourage her child to engage in violence during a sporting event,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “Youth sports are invaluable in teaching our children discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship. But a win at all costs mentality that is completely devoid of fair play, respect, and civility is disgusting. We as parents have the fundamental responsibility to raise our children to be good human beings who treat others with kindness and humanity.”
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Kevin Hahn, an attorney for Ham family, said he is pleased the DA chose to file charges.
"There was a clear direction from the mother to go hit my client," he said. "She clearly acted at the direction of her mother."
The father of the girl who threw the punch, former NBA player Corey Benjamin, issued a statement on social media shortly after the game apologizing for his daughter's actions.
“As a father, I'm shocked and disappointed at my daughter's behavior as this is not a reflection of the values and standards that my family holds,” Benjamin said. “Nor does it exemplify the values, character and spirit of sportsmanship that the game of basketball requires.
“To the young lady who was punched by my daughter during a youth basketball game, I sincerely apologize to you and I am praying for your complete healing both physically and emotionally,” he said. “To her family, I deeply apologize and regret that this happened to your daughter as she did not deserve this to happen to her. Finally, I apologize to all of those who have been impacted and hurt by the actions of my daughter as well as those of her mother.”
NBCLA is not publishing Benjamin's daughter's first name because she is a minor.
Vikki Vargas contributed to this report.